Expectation vs. Reality: Debunking 6 Common Myths About Publicity for Small Businesses

When starting a small business, it’s natural to want to focus on getting publicity so you can increase your business’s profile. More coverage means faster growth means more revenue, right? For the most part, yes, but it’s not quite so cut-and-dry.

There are several struggles a small business owner faces in the beginning stages, from not having enough resources (time, money, manpower) to finding the balance between maintaining a personal connection with your audience and scaling up. A small business is its own delicate ecosystem and in order to grow with long-lasting results, it’s critical to have a smart publicity strategy that won’t derail you. What you need to keep in mind is that trying to get the same kind of media coverage as a big national brand right out of the gate will neither be viable nor work as much in your favor as you might expect.

Through all my years of speaking with, consulting, and coaching entrepreneurs on mastering media, I’ve come across some media misconceptions that continue to prevail. I want to take some time to debunk six of the most common myths when it comes to publicity for small businesses.

Myth #1 – Any media exposure is good.

That’s not exactly true. Gaining worthwhile coverage requires relevancy.

The first question you need to ask yourself is: Are the media outlets I’m reaching out to aligned with my industry?
You should develop a solid intentional plan for the type of media outlets you’re going to approach. Do your homework to make sure you know exactly what types of stories they share with their audience so that what you pitch to them is relevant.

Think about what value you want to bring to their audience.

If you want to achieve success in getting the right kind of publicity, you must be targeted in your approach by contacting the right media outlets. I don’t recommend a one-size-fits-all approach because your pitch must be aligned with what the journalist covers in order to increase your chances of getting the interview.

Myth #2 – The only media coverage that matters is at the national level.

I’ll be the first to tell you that you don’t need to be featured in major publications or on major news or talk shows to significantly impact your business and your income. It might seem like you’re thinking big but on the contrary, it’s limited thinking and will keep you from getting the media exposure you deserve. Long before being featured on major news outlets, what really put my business on a path to success was a series of local media interviews and events, including a small speaking engagement at a local library.

Getting great publicity doesn’t mean you have to focus on getting national coverage. Local and regional coverage can often produce much better results because of the targeted audience and relevancy. When crafting your publicity strategy, your initial approach should be to reach out to local media first. Consistently doing local TV, radio, and newspaper interviews is what helped me launched my award-winning talk show. Starting locally gives you the experience needed as you hone your interviewing skills and will help prepare you for much bigger opportunities, including national media exposure which will come later on.

Myth #3 – I’ve gotten the interview, now I should start seeing results.

One of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen people make is not doing anything with the media coverage they have obtained. They assume that because they’ve gotten the interview, they have arrived at their destination: more customers will come to them and it will automatically result in more revenue.

Getting the interview is just the beginning. You need to develop a plan that will enable you to maximize its value by sharing it with more of your target market. In order to extend the effectiveness of your media coverage and to maximize its impact and staying power through long-term profits, you have to optimize it. This could be achieved in several different ways, including sharing it on LinkedIn (if that’s where your target market exists), on other forms of social media, or on your website.

Myth #4 – The longer my responses, the more successful the interview.

Most often, quite the opposite is true. In my experience with interviewing hundreds of people, I’ve found that many of them take too long to answer the question. They go on for two or three minutes without touching on any key points.

When you’re not sure what to say, you often say too much with no significant impact. This often results in an interview that lasts too long because the journalist or reporter needs that time to get the information they are seeking. Preparation is key, and so is practicing your interviewing skills. Through practice, you should be able to get your message across within 30 seconds or less (much like the standard guideline for an elevator pitch). If you need to elaborate a little bit more, then you can follow up with supporting information. Some of the best interviews I’ve ever done were very short and straightforward because I was able to obtain the information needed without all the extra fluff.

Myth #5 – I need to do a lot of interviews in order to see results.

In my conversations with entrepreneurs, I’ve found that another false belief they have is that you need to do a lot of interviews in order to be effective. That is one hundred percent incorrect. You don’t need to do 1,000, 500 or even 50 interviews in order to reap huge benefits. The same amount of revenue potential lies within 10 interviews as it does in 100 or 1,000 interviews. You have to be strategic and creative in how you leverage your existing media coverage. It’s about delivering quality rather than obtaining quantity. If you have the right audience, the right host, the right reporter, and the right message, then that is going to build momentum. You’ll achieve what I call the “snowball effect” where opportunities are presented to you continuously.

Myth #6 – I need a publicist in order to get media coverage.

As a small business owner, you don’t need to spend thousands of dollars to share your message with your target market while in the early stages of growth. This is a mistake I made at the start of my career just after I had published my first book. I hired a publicist but only for a short while–it was a lot of money going out and it was unsustainable for a first-time author.

Until you reach the point where you absolutely can’t, every business owner should do their own publicity. In the beginning, every detail matters in developing what will ultimately be your “image,” and you don’t want to hand that essential creation process to someone else.
Taking charge of your public image and controlling your own media strategy can feel intimidating at first, but at the end of the day, no one knows your business or your audience like you do.

In those few formative years when you’re first building your public image, maintaining control of your own publicity strategy is key. Not only that, it’s imperative to continue prioritizing and nurturing your relationship with your target market.

Being in charge of your own publicity also comes with some serious benefits that an outside person just can’t touch. Deciding to take matters into my own hands and learning about media set the foundation for the success I have today (twenty years later).
In order to successfully do this on your own, however, you’ll need an understanding of how publicity works and a strategic plan for obtaining consistent and effective media coverage.

Now that you’ve read these six debunked myths, set aside some time to look at your current publicity plan. Is it in good shape? Are you clear on your goals and the actions you need to take to get there?

I’d love to hear from you if you have any questions or would like to become a your own media master.

About Monica Davis

Monica DavisMonica Davis is an award-winning TV producer and host, media coach, and storyteller with 20+ years of experience in the media industry. She’s helped hundreds of professionals, entrepreneurs, and CEOs advance their vision and mission through creative brand narratives, which have attracted such benefits as more clients and customers, new speaking opportunities and lucrative business partnerships. Atela Productions is the recipient of five 2019 International Gold Hermes Awards which honors the best of the best who conceive, design and implement innovative ways to brand, market and communicate.

Jo Clarkson"Thank you very much indeed for helping us tell our story. This is brilliant Monica."
Jo Clarkson, UK Operations Director, The Alternative Board (UK)

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